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Soldier To Civilian: Problems Of Readjustment (1944)

Author: Pratt, George K.; Stevenson, George S.; National Committee on Service to Veterans
Subject: WWII; World War II; World War, 1939-1945 -- Psychological Aspects; World War, 1939-1945; Disabled Veterans -- Rehabilitation -- United States; Veterans -- United States; World War II: Postwar Issues
Year: 1944
Language: English
Collection: wwIIarchive; additional_collections



Foreword ix

1. Introduction 1

2. What Equipment Did the New Soldier Take with Him? 19

3. What Did Military Service Do to the Former Civilian? 35

4. How the Army Prevents Strains of Adjustment 63

5. Soldiers with Psychiatric Disabilities 81

6. The First Weeks at Home 113

7. Going Back to Work 148

8. Getting Reacquainted with the Family 172

Appendix: Community Services for Veterans 199


The rising value of human life in America is one of the signs of our advancing culture. The evidence of its existence is all about us and it needs no argument. But the value of human living as contrasted with human life is not yet on a sound standard, although public health, education, theology, medicine, and social work have been expanding their interests in morbidity, mortality and casualties to encompass the more positive satisfying, effective, and productive living. Their services are more and more measured by how well their beneficiaries live instead of by patterns of action born of tradition or authority.

During the depression of 1929 man-days were cheap, and, paradoxically, it has taken a period of apparent inhumanity, of war, to bring home to us the value of human living as expressed by man power. But still this is too often seen as a value to a society or nation, an imaginary being transcending its members, rather than to and through them exclusively. Yet it is not strange that out of a way of life and a political system known as democracy should come, through whatever portal, a welcome concern for the value of people. If man is worth salvaging he is worth it for himself. No other justification is needed. He was just as needful of satisfactions in 1932 as in 1942. Shall the services that surround him now be allowed to decline? We think not. Out of this materialistic, inhumanitarian, and entirely opportunistic impulse has come a deeply humanitarian and farsighted program. The rehabilitation of returning veterans will save us money, pangs of guilt, demagoguery, crime, poverty-stricken families, and disease, and yet without these savings it would be justified if it gave the veteran his appropriate opportunity in our national life and put the seal of approval on a national policy of respect for the importance of the individual.

An attempt is made in the pages that follow to show how reasonable are the quandaries of the veteran, considering what he has been through and how reasonable it is that we should not throw the whole burden of finding his way upon shoulders that are new to this type of responsibility, nor take from those shoulders loads that they can carry. It is not a matter of rewarding a man for work well done. Veterans are not asking that, although they are not beyond enticement into it. The veteran needs retooling. It is retooling for effective civilian living just as he was previously retooled for effective military living. Many gratuities, such as pensions, may be thrown to him that will have an opposite effect. For example, the GI Bill of Rights— in many respects an admirable measure— is very much a bill of rewards. Among the provisions, it "rewards" the deserter, the criminal, the fraudulently enlisted, and the undesirable character with "rights" that will frequently contribute to his failure. For the well balanced the reward becomes an incentive to action. For others it may become an incentive to dependence. Bonuses of a new style are needed— bonuses that "pay the debt of disability in the currency of opportunity." Such bonuses are as much harderto administer as they are more effective and are correspondingly easy to mishandle. They require biological and psychiat- ric as well as political thinking, for to be effective they must enhance life first of all, rather than prestige and power. Perhaps the need is summed up in the words "social statesmanship."

What is done wisely or unwisely for the veteran will be a sign and measure of our times and a forecast of our future. The veteran is humanity of the moment. Tomorrow he will be a part of our rural, town, and city life again and a heavy participant in our government. What we do for him will tell us and him where we stand in the 1940's. It will give him and us the cue for plans ahead. It will set the pace for services and considerations for our whole population. If we act intelligently now, we do so for many years to come.

This is a task for our whole public. Nothing could do more to strengthen democracy than universal participation in meeting this kind of reality with the same energy and time as we applied to air-raid precautions. But the task is to no small degree technical, and, if sound processes are to be effected, processes that will result in success of this broad effort rather than the disillusionment that follows superficial dabbling, a professional personnel well selected and trained is essential. It is a task as well for a variety of professions and trades. The needs of the veteran will most frequently be nothing more than a friendly, loving, receptive public ready to give the veteran the opportunity to resume civilian life. In many instances there will be needs for more specialized help, medical for the disabled, occupational guidance for the young and handicapped, social services for the shattered family, educational service for those requiring retraining or continuance of plans, and financial help for a variety of circumstances. How can those who are able to be of service become known to the veteran who needs the service? How can he be encouraged to use the service and still to use to the utmost his own resources? How can new services be developed to meet his needs? How can they be continually tested to measure their value and effectiveness? These are the practical questions whose answers in large part are still ahead of us if we have the soundness and humility that are essential to progress. The pages that follow give the spirit and direction for the next years wherewith to transform into practical social action a principle that we have fought to establish as our political safeguard.

—George S. Stevenson, M.D.

Medical Director, The National Committee for Mental Hygiene"

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